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On Learning to Code

via Pixabay

via Pixabay

When I was sixteen years old, I wanted to code.

It was that time of year where we chose our year 12 subjects, which would, of course, we were told, define the rest of our lives. I wanted to code, but that involved joining Computer Studies. Our computer studies class was full of those socially awkward boys who could only converse with you about Pokebattles or, on a good day, something more pop-culture centric like The Simpsons. I would have been the only girl in the class, and, more importantly, at 16, none of my friends were doing it. On top of this, I had no idea what careers I could get into outside becoming a programmer: which was something I could barely comprehend in a world pre-MySpace. In fact, most people expected me to become an English teacher. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – but I knew I would be safe in the arts. And, honestly, I didn’t think that I was smart enough to code – so I scratched that secret craving off my to-do list. So I took Society and Culture.

In a small country town, with all my friend on farms, I’d taught myself HTML from websites online, because the only other thing to do was cultivate weed, and gardening was never really my style. I didn’t know anyone else who build websites and a hobby so it kind of fell into the ether as something I did sometimes to relax (like beating that level of Angry Birds that has had you stumped for hours). It was the challenge to create this thing that was in your head into the real world. It, of course, never occurred to me that I was probably doing the exact same thing that those socially awkward kids in Computer Studies were doing.

At the time, I didn’t think it was really acceptable for girls to code. I know it was all “pro gender equality” and all that, but when you’re a teenager, no one really paid attention, especially when then most important thing your friends were concerned about was the dress they were wearing for their deb ball. Its been only a few years on where I’ve realized that, actually, girls can code – and no one cares if a girl wants to code. I’ve discovered that people actually really like a girl who can code – because there isn’t as much as a language barrier as compared with boys who chose to sink into a code-centric world, who discuss the universe is references to Skyrim or, if we’re lucky, The Simpsons.

I’d dabbled in code on and off for a few years , but never really knew how to get back into it – to learn more coding languages that meant I could play with the web 2.0 world. I want to create mashups with twitterbots and google maps and haul information from across the web to create new ways to connect ideas – but I don’t even know where to start. To counter the dusty, unopened l javascript textbooks on my bedroom floor, I’d briefly considered doing a TAFE course on web mashups – but that’s a pretty huge commitment. It only occurred to me how long it’s something I’ve been craving to do when @mikey_pants tweeted: “new years’s resolution to learn to code? Sign up now to free weekly courses.

It was like Christmas. I was so excited. I signed up and I’ve been working through the Codecademy courses like there’s no tomorrow. It’s been incredibly empowering. I can’t wait to fumble though the lessons and write my own code beginning with the dorky “hello world”. As for where to go from here – I don’t know. Maybe I have a base understanding to crack open my textbooks. Or maybe I’ll need to learn another language or two. I guess time will tell – either way, I can’t keep limiting myself from doing something I really enjoy simply because of something that, as a teen, I thought I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do.

If you have any tips for rad sites to teach programming, hook us up. I’d love to know what else out there.

Lolspeak: Moar than Just Cute Kitties

via Pixabay

via Pixabay

I came across* this excellent lecture by Jill Vaughan and Lauren Gawne from the Australian Linguistics Society annual conference 2011, looking at framing the construction of language around lolspeak.

I began to wonder whether this could lead to a linguistic divide between those who speak lolspeak, and those who don’t, mirroring the digital divide which we can see in Australian society, with the poorer of less computer-literate groups of society falling behind.

Every generation has it’s slang, but this is the first generation where one form of slang has created it’s own language structure, which is written, and in turn, formalized for that group who use it. In fact, there are kids who could have been raised being exposed more to lolspeak than traditional English.

I think there is already a shift in which younger generations struggle to be as traditionally grammatically-sound as older generations, which may be due to a combination of shifting standards in education systems, combined with leisure activities which don’t necessarily rely on the written word. Will lolspeak become a language which is adopted more naturally by the iGeneration? Will this cause a barrier to communication with older generations? I think it already is on the microscale in families, but probably not on a macroscale.

But then again, the media will taunt us with the fear that young people’s vocabulary is being drastically stunted by electronic mediums (where a teenager of 16 should know 40,000 words, and, instead, only knows 800.) So maybe teens will just throw the towel in and stick with the language they know. Long live Ceiling Cat!

What do you think?

I can has language play: Construction of Language and Identity in LOLspeak

I can has language play: Construction of Language and Identity in LOLspeak from Lauren Gawne on Vimeo.

* Hat tip to the rad Kate Fenerty for the link to this!

Obermutten and Facebook: Using Global Reach for Local Stories

Have you heard of the village of Obermutten? It’s a village of less than 100 people in the mountains of Switzerland. If you become a fan of their Facebook Page, they’ll print out your profile picture and put it on their town notice board*.

Or in the local barn.

Or on the houses in the village.

Because there isn’t enough room on the noticeboard.

Because there are 13,000 fans. And its still growing.

When I first heard of the Facebook Page, I’d seen this YouTube video – showing that this tiny village’s Facebook Page had higher engagement rates than the Lady Gaga and Coca Cola Facebook Pages. While their Fan page is still relatively small on the scale of things, smaller pages often struggle to get any interactions at all.

I decided to check out the page and see just why this page was so popular – beyond the novelty of being frozen in time on a noticeboard on the other side of the world – and the answer is simple.

It’s honest.

Unashamedly, the townspeople share snippets of their world. My favourite posts have included updates from the townspeople making a video of recent fog, there is a post dedicated to the town dog, and the Mayor’s daughter knitted a scarf for a Facebook Fan. Between these updates are posts of the villagers attaching photos of their Facebook Fans across the town and updates of how many fans they have – including posts when they have fans from a new continent or country.

Via Facebook

Via Facebook

When you scroll right to the first post, the first update rather charmingly says “test”, followed by the Mayor (I think!) opening the Facebook Page officially. The page is learning to walk as it goes along and it certainly doesn’t have any grand plan. However, that is the most refreshing part about it. Facebook Pages often feel so commercial that this kind of community is pretty rare. Other examples of similar real-world communities drawing on the masses of Facebook (such as “Rename the town of Speed to SpeedKills“) feel far more orchestrated, even if the same strong community exists in both towns.

One of the most interesting aspects is that the Page posts each updated translated into  multiple languages – sometimes very roughly! Responses come from all over the globe, in every language, which evidently not all of which can be appreciated. One Danish article discussing the town’s social media efforts was posted on the Wall; met with the response of “Thank you for this link. Unfortunately, we can’t understand it, but we can read a lot of times “Obermutten”! Kind regards and see you soon.”

So what makes the Page so popular? I can’t really put my finger on it – but it might simply be curiosity of how this town lives. The Facebook Page of Obermutten almost feels like a transference of the genre of reality television: this is a town letting us into their world, into their lives. And it feels pretty damn special.

I do wonder if this is the start of a new realm of tourism: where towns begin telling their stories in real time. What do you think?

*Yes. I know you want to know. I am also on the town noticeboard in Obermutten. ;)

What’s Wrong with This Phrase: My Favourite Ad Is…

This is quite possible my favourite ad from this year.

You probably aren’t wondering why it’s my favourite ad – it’s all kinds of hilarious, great script, great timing, not to mention brilliant quotes (that I will now use whenever someone offers me chips) and it doesn’t hurt that it’s for a good cause.

But maybe you’re wondering why I have a favourite ad.

Something I’ve thought is quite interesting of late is that people now have favourite ads. I was talking to my perpetually nineteen-year-old flatmate the other day about the ad above – and then she told me about her favourite ad, which, honestly, stunned me. I have a favourite ad, because I’m interested in advertising. But she likes Hannah Montana. And a band called LMFAO. So why would she have a favourite ad?

Could it be due to a shift in the way we relate to brands – where it doesn’t matter that our likes, loves and lives are branded (and Coca Cola’s “Share a coke with…” campaign certainly doesn’t dispute this theory) or is it simply that we are now making better ads which are targetting it’s audience via YouTube, where people will share an ad with their friends because it is an effective ad?

It’s said that people don’t hate ads, they hate bad ads – so maybe it’s a case of survival of the fittest in this new media landscape? Advertising must connect with the target audience, who will then pass it on, in order to have an impact.

I think that if it’s the former and we have changed the way we relate to brands, then this most certainly is the perfect time for Facebook’s rollout of it’s verb-based buttons – where all our actions are now branded. But I’m not sure if this is the case – are we happy that brands are part of our identity?

I see this self-branding happening a fair bit with my work, as I see a lot of teenagers on twitter. One thing I’ve noticed with their handles, is that a large percentage of them have usernames which are identifying themselves as a a follower of a certain brand: whether that’s a “Justin Bieber’s Wife”, “Big Brother 4 Eva” or “Mac fanboi” – teenager’s identities seem to be branded more than they used to be. Or is that just being a teenager, and weaving things you love into your life however you can – since we’re not simply limited to putting posters on our walls?

What do you think? Is this just a case of a favourite ad? Or is this a shift in the way we see ourselves?

What Interactive Fiction Storytellers Can Learn from Old Spice vs Fabio

I confess, I was a bit of a fangirl when it came to the original Old Spice Guy campaign. I was pretty excited when I heard there was a second campaign – which turned out the be a man-off between none other than The Old Spice Guy and Fabio.

via wikipedia

via wikipedia


While the video views and celeb involvement from celebrities tweeting in will call this campaign a success from  a numbers perspective, and the zany story arcs (including time travel) will definitely push it into meme-territory, I felt it really didn’t live up to expectations (and I’m not talking about Fabio’s awkward acting.)

I felt that this campaign very much dove into the “interactive fiction” realm – wherein the plotline could be dictated by the audience, with parallel stories which didn’t matter which order they were watched in, the only aspects which are concrete to plot are the beginning and end (and in the world of social media where videos are shared independently of each other, ideally, these aspects wouldn’t matter so much or would be easy to access).

However, this second Old Spice campaign didn’t quite pull it off in regards to linking relevant videos together, especially as the ‘related videos’ really wasn’t doing it’s job. I felt that in it’s execution it really struggled to create an easily consumed order to the videos, and it seemed more like putting the videos online in a short turnaround time was more important that any coherency for the audience.

I found it really hard to find the original challenge video and the response, which genuinely felt like I’d walked into a movie in the final scene. There was no promotion or hotlinks to the beginning of the challenge, and it very much felt like if you’d missed the beginning, it didn’t matter, because there’s not turning back now. And while there was a playlist created where the first three videos did reference the beginning of the challenge; it omitted the very first challenge-call by Fabio, which was part of an on-air advertising campaign in the States.

It took me a fair while of searching to actually find the Fabio videos, which didn’t come up as related videos organically, which also meant that challenges couldn’t be compared (for example, the very awesome “I challenge you both to see who can paint a portrait of a kitten with Old Spice body wash the best. Go!” (embedded below. ;)).

I was surprised there wasn’t a microsite to put challenge videos side-by-side, and even more surprised that there was little-to-no hotlinking between videos, and where there was hotlinking, it looked very much like an afterthought (and only on some videos – and not necessarily on each pair, and hotlinks in different videos had different information – some linked to voting, some didn’t).

It was also very hard to tell which videos had both an Old Spice Guy version and a Fabio version, or which ones were standalone because of this lack of navigation between videos.

I understand that the power of this campaign was in the user interactivity and the somewhat stunning production turnaround time of the video creation, so I understand the shortfall when it came to the usability design.

However, as this is one of the most successful versions of a new kind of interactive fiction, I think it’s a pretty disappointing. There’s a beginning, a whole stack of rich paths to find in the middle, and an end. But finding that beginning, end, or even two related videos in this rich middle is a fair struggle.

I think that having a strategy around adding hotlinks at the end of each video really could have made this a lot more successful. Having the consistant information across each video would have made it a lot easier to navigate, such as ‘see the original declaration of war’, ‘see the related challenge’ and, possibly ‘vote on twitter here’.

I think it would also be great to have something to cement the longevity of it, such as ‘see the winner here’; or as a placeholder prior to the winner being announced, ‘see the winner announced on on the [date]’. A link at the end of each video to ‘check out all of eg. Fabio’s videos’ could have also have created a lot more organic traffic, or, even a more effective video tagging on the YouTube videos.

I think it’s a really interesting time for experiments in storytelling across mediums, but I think that we need to set the bar a little higher when we consider the organic nature of sharing on social media and that context is robbed from a video when it is shared on Twitter or Facebook, which, I think, needs to be somehow reintegrated into the standalone products.

Maybe this integration wouldn’t work best as hotlinks; but as a cue, whether it’s a line in a script, a title bar in the video or even in the background graphic of YouTube channel, we need to consider the consumption of these videos both as a whole piece in it’s long-form story arc and also individually in it’s episodic components.

I’d like to think that Old Spice paves the way for more campaigns and storytelling of this kind, however, I’d hope that future stories also learn from what’s missing from a navigation or user-experience perspective.

So, if you missed it, here’s an overview of the whole story arc, which I haven’t seen anywhere on the web yet. Do check out the exceptionally acid-inspired ending to the finale – it’s pretty awesome.

The Intro

1) Fabio’s original challenge callout (Part of an on-air campaign)
2)  The Old Spice Guy accepts the challenge
3) The ad highlighting the duel
4) The Rules for Challenge by Old Spice Guy
5) The response to Rules for Challenge

The duels begin!

Check out the Old Spice YouTube channel for them all, but here’s one of my faves:

I challenge you both to see who can paint a portrait of a kitten with Old Spice body wash the best. Go!

I challenge you both to see who can paint a portrait of a kitten with Old Spice body wash the best. Go!

The Finale

6) The finale, with the winner (as voted by the public)

So, what are your thoughts on this campaign?


Status Updates: Let’s Stop Lying

What if we all started being a little more honest in our status updates?
We all know the drill: untag the bad photo, check-in to that cute bar, never post an update on those days when you cant stop crying and all you want to eat is chicken.

We often only share our stories that are positive online. We don’t share the things that hurt us, or scare us: the ramifications of which, I think, are are Stepford society. Everyone is happy and successful. Except us. And no one can relate to us when we have problems: because everyone is happy. We become frustrated and angry when we feel emotions like depression and frustration because we feel weak: we don’t see these emotions around us in the friends we love and respect. We feel like there’s something wrong with us and that we’re all alone.

I’ve been pondering, of late, creating a social site that requires you to fill in four statuses each week, before you can do any other updates: “this week something made me: happy/ hopeful/ sad/ angry.” No, it’s not the full spectrum of emotion, but it feels like a start to break down the barriers of current social networks, where only “here’s me being happy” is reflected.

I think if the site were either anonymous numbers (ie Anonymous0001) or restricted to 5 close friends it could be really useful to act as a support network for people who are experiencing similar issues and share experiences and insights. Ideally, the site could
be sorted by emotion or keyword to see everyone’s emotion from each category; in order to enable this supportive connection.

What do you think? Is this enough to begin breaking down these barriers in perception?

Or should we begin a campaign for Honest August: where to support positive mental health, we encourage  people to share emotions on Facebook outside of ‘happy’ and ‘angry’?

What do you think?

My Supermarket Of The Future

via pixabay

via pixabay

Self-service checkouts are the most humiliating thing in the world. There’s the beeping, the staff members rolling their eyes, the dropping money, the torn bags, the humiliation. If self-service checkouts are the way of the future, I’m not that keen.


Let’s put grocery shopping into the year 2011. Here’s a how I’d like to see supermarkets innovate.

I’ve dreamt up a new kind of supermarket. It’s a combination on the ALDI model with online shopping: but it’s not centralized around home-delivery. In fact, it’s more like ordering a pizza. Let’s go for a stroll and I’ll tell you about it.

My grocery store is a takeaway grocery store. It’d be primarily for tech-savvy time-poor young professionals. In an iPhone (or Android or web) app, shoppers select items they would like to pickup later that day. They list the time the expect to arrive at the store to pick it up (either at x time, or ‘I’m on my way!’ ot dissimilar to taxi booking). Set up like a take-away pizza store, customers head to the counter to pick up their groceries.

When they arrive at the store, they check-in to the store Foursquare-esqe. While cash and eftpos would be catered for, mobile-wallets, near-field payments or a credit card synced directly to the app would be the way the transaction would take place. If you share your check-in with facebook, twitter or foursquare you can receive loyalty points, rewards or discounts. The customer then grabs their groceries and head on home. Done!

The waiting room wouldn’t feel as sterile as a pizza store. There’d be a computer where you can either order  from scratch or check on your groceries if there’s a line up. If there’s a bit of a wait, you can sit on the couches nearby and order a coffee. There would also the walls covered in canvases from local street artists and music from awesome Aussie bands.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Hell yes.

So let’s get digital: the store would also have a lot of really cute options which could be integrated into the app. Storing your buying habits, it can offer suggestions like “Usually you’re out of milk by this time… Did you want to double check if you needed any?”.

It remembers your favourite items. Don’t scroll through every cereal in existence. The app ranks your favourite cereals at the top and the rest in alphabetical/brand order.

Nicknames can be applied to food: Awesome chilli noodles. Mum’s gross cereal. That shampoo that John buys because he thinks he’s going bald. You don’t need to remember a brand name and the difference between six slightly different product derivetives.

Send shopping lists to friends or family. If they don’t know the exact product your friend has asked for – they can find it, give it a nickname and send it to you to pick up. No more awkward “do these come in a larger size” moments.

In addition to this, it could sync with the app with recipe sites where you can simply say “order these items” and the ingredients to cook a certain meal would be added to your shopping list (drawn on the infamous “Like” button – with one-click to add the items to your account).

Obviously, promoted specials or recipes could be integrated into the app, in addition to highlighting sale items: “you’ve ordered x cheese, but x is on sale. Do you want to swap your order?”. (And, if nothing else, might be a good way to break even. ;))

While we’re at it – let’s set geolocative reminders. You don’t want to go shopping now, but know you need to pick up more bread? Geolocation updates will remind you when you’re near the store to pick up some bread. Just order it from your phone and swing by the store.

Now let’s go behind the curtain.

If you submit your order in the morning, or with two hour’s notice, there is either a discount or loyalty points – this is so staff packing the groceries can prepare as many deliveries in advance as possible to reduce waiting time when the inevitable peak-hour rush comes on. The computer which delivers the order to the staff would rank the orders as per priority based on their arrival time. If someone is “heading over now”, their order is bumped up the queue, however, a subsequent ranking looks at who placed their order first. If it appears like there is a backlog of orders, an alert would let the consumer know that there may be a wait and asks whether they’re happy to drop by a bit later (or to hang out and have a coffee.) ;)

When the order is sent through to the staff, the docket is split into the multiple divisions of the store, where staff fill a tray or trolley with that customers’ surname and order code to keep their groceries together. Once the dry goods are packed, that customer’s tray  is placed an initial holding area. In this area, all the goods until that point are checked off manually by staff who cross check all the items from the dry goods.

When the customer checks-in to the store, the dairy and cold goods are added to their tray . This customers’ tray is then added to the secondary waiting area, where the frontdesk service staff meet the customers and deliver their groceries to them.

For customers who are more than 2 hours later than their stated pick-up time, a small fee is incurred and, if groceries are not picked up that day without notice, the order is dissolved and 70% of the cost of the groceries is returned to the customer. Cancellation outside of two hours incurs no cost.
All-in-all, the overheads are quite low, it can be run with minimal staff, and stock can be brought in on a just-in-time system and with the back of the store with the simple warehouse layout like ALDI.

In theory, if the store wanted to outsource, it could also have parcels delivered to the store to be picked up with the next time a customer drops into the store.

What do you reckon? Would you swing by my Supermarket of the Future? The supermarket where the only beeping is your phone reminding you to buy That shampoo that John buys because he thinks he’s going bald?

Rebecca v Jessi: Should We Be Putting Online Reputation Management in Schools?

I think it’s been really interesting that over the past few months, there’s been a lot of talk (well, who am I kidding, a lot of memes) about Rebecca Black. Her YouTube clip Friday went viral, resulting in fame in just three short months, which includes being invited to making an appearance at the MTV O Music awards.

via youtube

via youtube

I want to discuss is the difference between Rebecca Black’s rise to fame, and Jessi Slaughter‘s infamy. Both of whom have become memes online – but Rebecca has a recording contract, while Jessi’s father has faced criminal charges as a result of his daughter’s online infamy. How did these end up on such different paths?

I believe a key difference in the way that these two entered the online stage, and responded to their new audience was, simply what I will call “online literacy”: understanding how and why online culture works, and knowing how to work it. I’m not saying 13-year-old Rebecca has a magic formula to making videos viral – I’m saying that when the internet did pluck her from anonymity, her response was to play smart and cash in. 11-year-old Jessi responded in the way an 11-year-old would to harassment, but unfortunately, antagonized the wrong people because she didn’t really understand the implications of what she was doing. (Obviously, due to her age, which I will discuss shortly).
Rebecca Black understood how to play the online game. Her family paid a production company to create a YouTube video for her, so she placed herself on the online stage in a very formulated way*. While the video is made a mockery of, she’s a girl who made a decision to make a lame video, and she’s standing by it, playing cool, saying the “haters don’t bother her“. Jessi Slaughter, however, stumbled into the online world, making YouTube videos from the perspective of an eleven-year-old to a small online community, lashing out at anyone who attacked her. The result was that the online community, in particular, 4Chan, believed this girl needed to be taught a lesson in manners, which translated in to a string of real-world pranks. Jessi’s family, however, don’t understand this online culture, nor were they aware what her daughter was doing online. They didn’t understand how to use the internet, nor why they were being attacked, exhibited in the meme-tastic, “We’ve called the cyberpolice”. In fact, even as the family were being interviewed by media about the harassment and police intervention, Jessi’s mother still had no idea that her daughter had even made online videos.
One of the biggest issues here, is that the most naive members of our society, are also the most information rich regarding this new form of media. We have eleven-year-olds who can make videos for the world to see, more fluently and faster than people in their twenties, thirties, fourties, fifties. The response to try to combat young people using technology has been to lock social networks down for kids under 13, such as Facebook.  Cyberbullying help buttons on Facebook have been implemented in the US but the reality is that there are more than enough online communities for preeteens to explore outside of these places, which are unmonitored.
The issue is that adults are aware of some of the dangers of the online world, especially those of a predatory nature, but don’t understand enough about navigating the online space to encourage or support healthy relationships with people online, including strangers such as people on forums, on twitter, in chat rooms, on chatroulette. All of the cyber safety information I see is about ‘what if someone tries to friend you on Facebook’ and completely overlooks the literacy needed around conversing with online-only friends in all these other spaces, or even, what is really the case with these teens, online reputation management.
Schools will palm it off to parents. Parents will palm it off to teachers. The reality is, that in general, both these groups are as likely to be as confused as each other.
It’s funny, that for a piece of technology which has grown so quickly as part of our everyday lives, there is a vast number of people who still really have no idea how to use it – my favourite example being Read Write Web’s ‘Facebook Login redesign article saga‘, it beg the question – what if we were allowed on the roads without driving lessons?
We need to recognise that there are a lot of people who don’t understand the basics of how the internet works and are forced to learn on the fly. However the nature of the internet is that these interactions are in a public space and people make mistakes which most of the time, no one cares about. But in the case of teens like Jessi Slaughter, public mistakes can lead to some very serious consequences.
What do you think? How should be address the lack on online literacy in our communities? Schools? Parents? Community-based workshops? Training manuals which come with new computers? Or, would a great big internet delete button be a better approach during people fumbling about on the internet? Let me know – I’d love to begin to seriously think about way to challenge this issue.


*Interesting, one of the other girls in the Friday video has also received harassment online from her role. See how well presented her response is (Y’know, despite her ramblings about Justin Bieber, her braces and her driveway length in the middle)?

Ad:Tech Sydney – The Future Of Television is…?

Yesterday I headed to Ad:Tech in Sydney to check out the keynote “The Future of Television“. It had a really interesting panel, which consisted in a group which  right across the spectrum of television as we know it now (and how we could know it in the future). Representatives were from television production company, Shine360, Broadcasters Nine and SBS, Freeview Australia, and thrown in for good measure was a representative from Sony and Microsoft.

Television graffiti

Part of the discussion I enjoyed the most was the look at what television means – and the perspective of whether ‘television’ means something in your loungeroom, or something mobile. While it’s evident that society would generally deem ‘television’ as any screen you can carry in your pocket, the presenters on the panel emphasised that until metrics from viewers online are classified as ‘ratings’, then small-screen viewing simply won’t be counted as television from an industry perspective.

One presenter pointed out*, Broadcasters would care more about the”screen” if mobile interaction counted as ratings. “Music industry didn’t care about digital until online sales existed – so until these metrics become tangible in regards to the business, they have no impact.”

And, let’s face it, this won’t happen any time soon with industry regulations being different across free-to-air and pay tv, which is amplified by the fact that online and mobile aren’t even classified as Broadcast according to Industry bodies.

Sony representative, Paul Colley, estimated that 50% of all TVs currently being sold are internet-capable, and this figure could be 80% of all televisions within three to four years’ time. The legal and regulatory questions around accountability of this content need to be addressed very soon in order to keep pace with technology, or we might find ourself in a situation where what we would classify today as “broadcast media” entirely without regulation.

One of the other debates I found most interesting was how to engage those viewers who increasingly want to interact with their television shows. This is, in reference to appointment television – this is not a question of whether people want to choose what they want to watch as per torrenting and YouTube, but a question for when people do want their viewing on shuffle**.

It’s no secret that people are more and more interacting with television via a second device, whether it’s checking in, tweeting about it or discussing it with friends on Facebook.

There are loads of studies looking at the increasing trend of people simultaneously watching tv and using online spaces to discuss these shows or interact with these show. The way we use media is changing.

The real question around this issue was how we interact with television: do we just want to converse around the show online, or want a deeper immersion?

The fine line between interaction needs to be balanced: how can we create an interactive environment to work with a show, not taking it over? How do we have a Twitter feed integrated with the show, without the amusing tweets taking centre stage?

A discussion I had with some friends outside the conference led to the discussion around how you could sync a mobile device and television so that they could work separately or concurrently (for example, could the tv show be broadcasting and additional interactive content work concurrently on an iPad? Could it be tweets, video extras, polls, ability to purchase items from that moment in the show, all sent out – and interactive – at the same time as the show? Could there be episode specific content, even when it’s a rerun?)

Iain MacDonald presented an awesome pic (the closest thing to it I could get was the image above) in the opening statement got me thinking: why do these devices need to be complementary? When would technology be available to sync all mobile computer devices in a room so that if I’m tweeting on one device, the television can optionally support additional content?

A fair point was raised that “multitasking” is a misnomer, where watching tv and reading email was not the activity of doing both at the same time, but switching your attention from one to the other. The ramifications of this is that the interaction work best if limited simply around ‘conversation’ rather than actually shifting the storyline, as per experiments of interactive television in the past decade.

The debate also launched into gamification of shows (and the revenue stream it could provide) and whether shifting shows into an experience would be a viable option – such as ‘playing’ the Biggest Loser, while you watch it, a suggested by Microsoft’s Kordahi.

There’s a fine line with interactivity around ‘forcing’ interaction, the panelist pointed out, where people switch off if they are instructed ‘how’ to interact, but the model should be to provide the tools, observe the behaviours of how people interact using those tools.

The Grey’s Anatomy iPad app could be the first reflection of networks taking advantage of this secondary-device behaviour, which both gamifies and creates a secondary revenue stream for traditional television long term. Do television networks need to begin owning that secondary space?

As Kordahi stated regarding mobile devices, “People don’t want to watch what’s on TV on a smaller screen, they want a companion app.” – which might very much be the case.

But, in the end, the same issue still applies: the metrics don’t exist to encourage traditional media to attempt these models and the laws and regulations aren’t in place to protect either the viewers or broadcasters attempting this.

What do you think? The question of if we should adapt is long gone, but it’s still very pertinent to ask ‘how?’ and ‘why?’.

What do you think – are ‘companion apps’ the way of television watching in the future? Or, with most of Australia’s broadcast being content which has often already broadcast in the US, would this model simply not be applicable?

Till next time,


*Apologies, I was live tweeting so I didn’t have a chance to reference all the quotes. If you know, let me know so I can credit y’all. :)

** To reference a fabulous quote from my nineteen-year-old flatmate: “Television is like YouTube on shuffle.” Gold!

Mythbusting: Digital Natives

I’m kind of astounded that there are still articles popping up which are astounded that Digital Natives can use a computer, and that that online communication could possibly be a translation of real-world communication. I mean, it’s only 2011.

I thought it was a while ago that we realised that online culture is simply a translation of the activities we do offline. The way we interact with social connections, public messages, private messages, ways to convey status (social check-ins, relationship status, flattering photos), and emotions (sure, emoticons aren’t perfect, but they do exist for a reason: to convey information which is traditionally non-verbal.) are all direct translations for the way we behave in the real world. The motivations are all the same: make friends. Be loved.

Admittedly, the most frequently used online systems don’t necessarily reflect this transition from online to real world perfectly, however, we work with what we have. Facebook, for example, provides updates to people publically across multiple networks, instead of select friend groups, which is how we interact in real life. (Check out @padday’s awesome The Real Life Social Network presentation which explores this.)* However, this is the medium which is very much the norm today in regards to relating to friends and family.

I read an article earlier today which discusses teens ‘using code‘ to express the way they feel online. It’s possible that this research is more layered that the article implied, however, to me it reads like the author didn’t realise that parents have been prying in the lives of their teens since the dawn of time. Facebook doesn’t change that. If teenagers didn’t write letters to their best friends in code, or talk around an issue on the family shared phone in years gone by, I’ll eat my hat. I think this research reflects that people communicate in the same ways that they always have across time. It’s seems to be yet another case of ‘because it’s on the internet, it’s new’. But communication is still communication, irrespective of medium.

Secondly, it seems that there an assumption that teens can’t navigate online spaces. It feels a little like the world operated on this assumption that Gen Y are stupid and superficial because these updates are publically available (as opposed to, perhaps, in one’s diary?) Sure, teens might me more comfortable having conversations in public than other generations, but studies have shown that teens are more aware of the things they put online and are more likely to self-censor than other groups**.

Yep, a new online way of communicating has developed, (using lolspeak and the like), but this is no different to the slang of other generations. Emoticons exist, to replace the non-verbal cues we usually receive when we communicate in person.

How can we judge a generation for posting comments about their personal lives in public and developing a language to suit the online environment we’re in, when our culture expects we be fluent in this form of communication?

It’s nothing new that teens hide information from their parents. It’s nothing new that they need to do this in a public sphere. It’s nothing new that they communicate with their friends.

It’s 2011. We’re not cyborgs. We’re not raised in factories. We still communicate with our friends and loved ones (and hide things from friends and loved ones ;)).

Or… did I just step out of a parallel universe and haven’t found my bearings yet?

Keep it real guys,


*Yes, we could set filters and sort friends into groups, but, I’ll admit, I can’t bring myself to go through my friends list and sort people mainly because I don’t want to humiliate myself with realising the number of people I have on my Facebook who I met once at a party and I stumbled away exclaiming “YES! I AM TOTALLY ON FACEBOOK! LET’S HANG OUT!” and still to this day have neither hung out with them, nor gleaned a solid recollection of them.

** I’ve totally read this but can’t find a reference right now. Let me know if you have one lying around!